San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Nicaraguan opposition calls Ortega’s bills ‘confiscatory,’ ‘warmongering’

Nicaragua’s opposition party is warning that a series of three bills presented Tuesday to the National Assembly by President Daniel Ortega are “warmongering” and “possibly confiscatory.”

José Pallaís, president of the National Assembly’s Judicial Affairs Commission, told The Nica Times Wednesday morning in a phone interview that the three defense bills are, in his legal and political opinion, sounding the war drums.

“These bills give the impression that Ortega is preparing for war,” Pallaís said. “Instead of creating the image of a civil country, these initiatives give the image of a warmongering country. This is very dangerous.”

On Tuesday afternoon, with less than three days to go before congress breaks for year-end recess, Ortega sent three key national defense bills to the National Assembly, asking that they be approved “with urgency” before Friday. The three bills, titled the “National Defense Law,” the “National Security Law” and the “Border Law,” seek to expand military powers in times of “national emergency” (see separate story).

In addition to the new defense and security measures, the bills call for new restrictions on property rights.

Pallaís described the Border Law bill as “disproportionate and confiscatory.” He said a measure in the bill that would designate all land within 15 kilometers of borders “national territory” could provide Ortega with legal pretext to confiscate land, restrict its use, or force owners to sell.

“This could be used to appropriate land,” Pallaís said.

The wording of the controversial article reads, “An area of national terrain, which will extend from the border 15 kilometers toward the interior of the country, requires special treatment for the protection of the environment, culture and socio-economic development due to its geographic location and closeness to neighboring states.”

The article says that tourism developments approved by the Nicaraguan Tourism Institute (INTUR) will be included in the new territorial designation.

Pallaís noted that while other countries have land-use restrictions along the border, he said 15 kilometers is a “disproportionately” large amount of land.

The lawmaker said the bill could be interpreted as an effort to establish the legal foundation needed to appropriate land around the San Juan River for whatever project the government might be secretly planning in the zone.

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